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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Family Blames McDonald’s for Worker’s Death

CHICAGO (CN) - A man whom McDonald's allowed to loiter for hours in its restaurant abducted one of its employees after she clocked out, then murdered her and buried her body in the woods, the woman's estate claims in court.

Gloria Araujo filed the lawsuit Wednesday both in Dupage County and Cook County circuit courts, on behalf of the estate of her late daughter, Linda Valez, herself a mother of seven.

Velez was 33 when she was found dead in late September 2013, buried in Panfish Park with 34 stab wounds.

Police soon arrested Myron Ester in connection to the crime but the 47-year-old is still awaiting trial.

The attorney representing Velez's estate, John Walker of Waveland Law Group in Chicago, said in an interview that Ester just received a continuance for his criminal trial in DuPage County.

"We waited as long as we could" to file the civil lawsuit, but the statute of limitations was about to run out, Walker said.

Velez's estate says they did not learn until Sept. 30, 2013, that "Ester committed the crime shortly after abducting Ms. Velez from the restaurant."

Ester had sat in the Glen Ellyn McDonald's restaurant where Velez worked up to 10 hours on the last day she was seen alive, Sept. 24, according to the complaint.

"During her entire shift that day, McDonald's permitted her former boyfriend Myron Ester to linger in the restaurant, even though their shift supervisor had observed that he was harassing her every time she used the bathroom or exited the kitchen area," the complaint states.

The estate says Velez's co-workers and managers saw Ester "sitting and staring at Ms. Valez continuously and menacingly ... yelling, swearing and verbally abusing her while she worked" from 10 a.m. until 8:30 at night.

Employees did not call the police and "took no steps to remove Mr. Ester from the premises," however, even after he "was heard by employees to have threatened to kill her," according to the complaint.

When Velez left the restaurant for the night, "Ester was observed to accost her in the doorway and parking lot," the complaint states.

The park where Velez was killed is near the restaurant.

A Patch.com article on a hearing after Ester's arrest says the suspect blamed Velez for instigating the violence. He said they had been drinking and arguing in the park when Velez pulled out a knife. Ester said he blacked out and doesn't remember what happened after that. A witness has reportedly come forward saying Ester admitted to having killed Velez but then later said he was just joking.

Velez had met Ester while the two were homeless, but Velez had "decided to turn her life around," according to the complaint.

She had a job and an apartment in Wheaton, but the Chicago Tribune reported that she had been battling bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and manic depression.

Both she and Ester had lengthy arrest records, the Tribune reported.

Araujo told the Tribune that Velez "was a beautiful person" but "chose to live on the street."

"She made a lot of bad mistakes and this was the end result," Araujo added.

The civil lawsuit accuses McDonald's of premises liability and Ester of battery.

Attorney Walker said he filed in both Cook and DuPage counties to "be sure we covered our bases" because parts of Glen Ellyn lie in each county.

He said he thinks the Cook County case will be dismissed.

McDonald's declined to comment on the lawsuit, but Steve Thatcher, the director of operations for McDonald's Greater Chicago Region, did say in a statement that "we still feel the loss of Linda today, and our thoughts continue to be with her family and friends."

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